The 10 Most Memorable Individual Performances in College Basketball History
Memorable hoops performances are created when a player does something that remarkably exceeds the norm.
Some of the most unforgettable moments in college basketball history have not always received a flood of media reporting at the time they happened.
But the quality of the achievement is more important than the quantity of the coverage.
Here are the 10 most memorable individual performances in college basketball history.
You will immediately recognize some of these historic bursts, while you may be discovering a few for the first time.
Here we go!
10. Syracuse's Sherman Douglas Drops Dimes Against Providence (1989)
Syracuse’s Sherman Douglas was one of the best college point guards in college hoops history.
His 960 dimes place him as the No. 6 assist leader of all time.
Douglas’ nastiest moment as a playmaker came on a January, 1989 night against Providence when the 6’0” PG handed out 22 assists, tying an NCAA record.
Even though Charleston Southern's Tony Fairley and Southern’s Avery Johnson also had games in which they handed out 22 assists, Douglas' record-breaking night came against the best competition by a long shot.
9. William & Mary's Bill Chambers Dominates the Glass Against Virginia (1953)
William and Mary’s Bill Chambers was far from a 1950s sports icon.
In fact, before reading this article, you might not have even known that Chambers existed.
When you hear and see what he did in a 1954 game versus Virginia, you might look for more info about this unique evening.
Chambers absolutely was a one-man rebounding wrecking crew, corralling 51 (yes, I said “51”) rebounds. He alone pulled down more boards against the Cavaliers than most teams do in a game.
From what Yahoo! Sports' Jeff Eisenberg mentions, Chambers’ mark did not turn the college hoops world upside down:
There was no announcement over the PA system to inform the crowd of what he'd accomplished. There was no postgame ceremony to present him with the game ball. Even newspaper recaps of William & Mary's 1953 victory over Virginia highlighted Chambers' 37 points more than his unprecedented rebounding tally.
"It wasn't a big deal at the time," Chambers recalled recently. "When the game was over, nothing was said. It wasn't until later in the school year after the season was over that I found out I had the record."
8. Butler's Darnell Archey Hits 85 Free Throws in a Row (2001-2003)
The most unique, memorable individual performance belongs to Butler’s Darnell Archey, who hit 85 consecutive free throws, an NCAA record.
Every other player on this list did something phenomenal within the parameters of a single game.
Archey’s feat extended over parts of three seasons. The streak started in February of 2001 and continued until January of 2003. Impressive!
As a sophomore, Archey hit 46 of 48 free throws. As a junior, he hit all 23 of his free-throw attempts. As a senior, Archey knocked down 72-of-74 from the charity stripe.
Yahoo! Sports’ Jeff Eisenberg pointed out that “No other Division I player has eclipsed 70 (consecutive made free throws) besides Archey and (Villanova’s Gary) Buchanan.”
In a day when basic shooting accuracy sometimes is a rarity, Archey’s mark may stand for a long time.
7. Elvin Hayes Rules in the "Game of the Century"
Whoever decided to call the matchup between Houston’s Elvin Hayes and UCLA’s Lew Alcindor (now Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) the “Game of the Century” was dead on.
Played in the Astrodome on January 20, 1968, this contest was the first nationally televised college basketball game.
The Houston Chronicle’s David Barron asserted that “UH-UCLA at the Astrodome inaugurated a new era: basketball as a stadium-sized spectacle.”
Hayes chose the biggest night on the biggest stage to bring an amazing performance. He scored 39 points and grabbed 15 rebounds as the Cougars snapped the Bruins' 47-game winning streak.
His legendary dominance should not be downplayed whatsoever because of an eye injury that Alcindor was battling. Hayes was invincible.
6. Michigan State's Mateen Cleaves Returns to Lead the Spartans (2000)
One of the most gritty and gutsy performances in NCAA tournament history came from Michigan State's Mateen Cleaves.
The focused Spartan PG was an intense competitor who held nothing back and played with determination every moment he was on the court.
Cleaves was a three-time All-American and was named the Big Ten player of the year twice.
In the 2000 NCAA finals, Cleaves left the game after he injured his ankle in the second half.
But it was nearly impossible to keep Cleaves on the sideline. In spite of being barely able to walk, he returned to help the Spartans close out their win over Florida.
Even though Cleaves scored 18 points in the championship game, it was his intangible influence that secured the NCAA Final Four Most Outstanding Player award.
5. Furman's Frank Selvy Goes for Triple Digits Against Newberry College (1954)
Furman’s Frank Selvy inserted himself into college basketball’s chronicles when he put up 100 points in a game during the 1953-54 season.
For me, it doesn’t matter that the Purple Hurricanes (school nickname then) were playing tiny Newberry College. If you hit the century mark, you have my attention and my respect.
In a 1995 Sports Illustrated article, William F. Reed pointed out that, ironically:
The game was being televised by a Greenville TV station—the first live telecast of a college basketball game in South Carolina's history—because of the public's intense interest in Frank Selvy.
Based on Reed’s account of this miracle night, Selvy had 24 points at end of the first quarter and 37 by the half. He added 26 in the third quarter to run his total to 63.
But Selvy really went off in the fourth quarter, scoring 37 in the final stanza.
How did he score the 100th point? With two seconds on the clock, he launched a 40-footer.
Nothing but the bottom of the net!
4. Wilt Chamberlain Explodes in His First Varsity Game at Kansas (1956)
Long before Kansas’ Wilt Chamberlain took the court as a Jayhawk, KU fans everywhere knew that he was going to be exceptional.
For his 48 collegiate games, Chamberlain averaged 29.9 points and 18.3 rebounds per game. Wow!
But I am not sure that anyone expected the kind of explosion that took place in his first varsity game in Lawrence.
The Big Dipper dominated Northwestern, scoring a school-record 52 points and grabbing 31 rebounds.
In an article by Sports Illustrated’s Richard Rothschild, one of Chamberlain’s opponents that night, the Wildcats' Joe Ruklick said, "It's just ridiculous. He made me feel like a 6-year-old kid."
Ruklick was not the last person to feel childish after going up against Wilt the Stilt
3. LSU's Pete Maravich Pours in 69 Points Against Alabama (1970)
There has never been another scorer in college hoops like LSU’s Pete Maravich.
More than a decade before the three-point line graced college basketball floors across the country, Maravich was terrorizing opponents by scoring from all over the court.
He is the NCAA’s all-time leading scorer with 3,667 points and a 44.2 PPG career average.
Maravich's top scoring night came as a senior against Alabama when he went off for 69 points.
Yahoo! Sports’ Jeff Eisenberg shared this funny story about Maravich’s top scoring night:
Instead of commemorating one of her husband's finest basketball moments, former Alabama guard Bobby Lynch's wife delighted in poking fun at him a bit.
Hanging on the walls of the frame shop the couple owns is a 30x40-inch picture of LSU legend Pete Maravich shooting over Lynch during a 1970 game in Tuscaloosa. The caption beneath the photo reads, "Bob held him to 69 points."
To tally 69 points, he actually hit 26 shots from the field and 17 free throws. Maravich also pulled down five rebounds and handed out four assists.
This was one of four times when Maravich scored at least 60 points in a single college game.
2. Danny Manning Carries Kansas to the 1988 NCAA Championship
Kansas’ Danny Manning was not a one-man team, but he certainly was an irreplaceable part of the Jayhawks’ 1988 NCAA championship team.
Going into March Madness, KU was an unimposing 21-11, and they were not scaring anyone. But as Danny and the Miracles started to mesh, no opponent was safe.
When Kansas faced Oklahoma in the 1988 title game, the Sooners were heavy favorites. Fortunately for the Jayhawks, the game is not played on paper or in the pregame analysis.
In one of the biggest upsets in NCAA history, Manning was nearly unstoppable, putting up 31 points, pulling down 18 rebounds, nabbing five steals and blocking two shots.
1. UCLA's Bill Walton Is Near-Perfect Against Memphis State in 1973 Title Game
UCLA’s Bill Walton had a ton of big games over his three years as the Bruins’ center, but none bigger than this one.
Walton was a three-time national player of the year and helped UCLA to back-to-back NCAA championships.
In the 1973 title game victory over Memphis State, Walton had a near-perfect night, hitting 21 of 22 shots from the field and scoring 44 points.
It was almost embarrassing how easy it was for Walton to score. Even his teammates were evidently getting a little bored with it all.
A 2008 ESPN article recounted this unforgettable moment:
John Wooden called a time-out 35 years ago in the NCAA championship game against Memphis, bringing his UCLA Bruins to the bench.
Bill Walton was going off against the Tigers, piling up points inside as fast as the seconds ticked off the clock on March 26, 1973, in St. Louis.
"One of my guards said, 'Let's try something else," Wooden told The Associated Press this week.
The bespectacled coaching great looked around the huddle and told the Bruins, "Why? If it ain't broke, don't fix it."
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